Tonight’s Hearing on the Independent Transit Authority

I thought I’d share with you our testimony that we will give tonight to the Montgomery County State Delegation concerning the Independent Transit Authority.  If you want to send your own comments, you can do so easily through the Coalition for Smarter Growth by clicking here.  They have also created an informative fact sheet about the Independent Transit Authority that you may find helpful.

Below is our testimony:

My name is Amy Ginsburg, and I am Executive Director of the Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization with more than 1,100 supporters, including residents, businesses, homeowners associations, and property owners.  Our only mission is to ensure the full implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan so that the promise of a walkable, transit-oriented, smart-growth community is achieved in the Pike District.

We support the legislation that enables the formation of an Independent Transit Authority that in turn will create and operate a Rapid Transit System along Route 355 and elsewhere in the County.  RTS is critical to improving the quality of life for a growing population and to attracting businesses and retailers to the Pike District. Building a Rapid Transit System is a crucial step in creating a vibrant, prosperous community in the White Flint area.

Just like bread needs a baker, an RTS needs an organization whose focus is transit. The Independent Transit Authority is an innovative way to provide that dedicated concentration to public transit. Essentially, it provides Montgomery County with the ability to efficiently and quickly create the kind of walkable, transit-friendly community so important to our future sustainability. The Independent Transit Authority will result in a faster design and build out of the indispensable RTS along Route 355.

Without a government body providing a singular focus to transit, there will likely be long delays in creating the Rapid Transit System in the County, including along Route 355, delays that will be detrimental to the successful transformation of the Pike District. Therefore the Friends of White Flint is strongly in favor of this legislation to create an Independent Transit Authority.

From all of us at Friends of White Flint, thank you for your continued support of the White Flint Sector Plan.

Yes, let’s support the Independent Transit Authority

Over the past few days, you may have read about the proposed Independent Transit Authority. Essentially, Montgomery County state legislators introduced a bill that would enable the County Council to set up an Independent Transit Authority which would plan, develop, and operate the Ride-On bus system and the planned Rapid Transit System network, coordinate with WMATA and the Maryland Transit Authority, and operate the County’s four parking lot districts.  The bill was introduced this past Friday and this Friday, there is a hearing at which Friends of White Flint will testify.

The board of directors of Friends of White Flint discussed this proposal in-depth last night and voted unanimously to support this bill creating an Independent Transit Authority.

Is it a perfect bill? Nope.

Does the cliché ‘the devil is in the details’ ring true? Yes, just like it does in any new venture, especially when it comes to funding and governing structure. Fortunately there will be many opportunities to hash out these details.

Is a Rapid Transit System/Bus Rapid Transit essential to the full implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan? Absolutely yes.

Will there be a BRT in the near future without an agency to design and manage it? Probably not.

For that reason, we believe that creating an Independent Transit Authority is an innovative, pragmatic solution to developing the transit Montgomery County requires to meet the needs of its growing population, attract business, and provide its residents with a better quality of life. This is important throughout the County, but it is especially critical in the part of MoCo we’re most fond of, the Pike District.

You can learn more about the Independent Transit Authority at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/transit-authority/factsheet.html.

 

Tell me again what this BRT-thing is all about?

BRT

BRT, or Bus Rapid Transit, is essentially Metrorail on wheels instead of tracks. It’s high-quality, fast, and convenient.  (And yes, it’s something that people will actually use. They do in areas similar to the Pike District all over the world and increasingly, in the United States. Count me in as an enthusiastic convert, and now I can’t wait for the day when I can catch a sleek BRT rather than cursing traffic and searching for parking in my car.)

Here is a quick fact sheet about BRT which should answer many of your questions. But if you don’t have time to click through and read up on this innovative type of transit, here are the five things you need to know:

1) BRT features a dedicated right-of-way and bus-only lanes for fast travel that never gets caught up in traffic congestion.

2) You pay your BRT fare at a station, not on the bus, so there’s no delay getting through one of the many doors on the BRT.

3) Because stations are level with the bus and ground, BRT will be fully-accessible so people in wheelchairs, disabled passengers, and parents with strollers will find getting on and off the BRT to be a breeze.

4) On average, BRT systems can be build in a fraction of the time it takes to construct light rail, and BRT can cost 30 times less to build and 3 times less to operate.

5) BRT is essential to the successful implementation of the White Sector Plan and to the creation of a walkable, transit-friendly, sustainable community in the Pike District.

You Won’t Want to Miss Paladar’s 4th Annual Carnival Celebration

Here’s the scoop Friends of White Flint Member Paladar’s 4th annual Carnival celebration. This 16-day long party promises to be the most excitement you will have this side of The Equator.

  • February 2nd through February 17th – you’ll receive ½ off mojitos, margaritas and sangria, all day long. (Sorry, not valid on February 13th or 14th.) For the Carnival street food lovers, don’t worry, they’ve got you covered too.
  • From now through February 16th, they’re handing out Carnival scratch-off tickets where you can win up to 25% off your check and other cool prizes during our 16-day celebration. As an added bonus, you can enter your scratch off tickets to win a $1,000 Paladar gift card!
  • Fat Tuesday, February 17th is the climax of our Carnaval celebration! They’ll have live music from 8-11pm featuring DJ Slim. Trust us, you don’t want to miss this party.
  • Reservations will fill up fast, so book your table today.

Larger, older, more diverse

Map of population increase

The population of the DC Metro area in 2030 is going to much larger, more diverse, and skew a bit older, according to a new report by the Urban Institute.  Imagine the population growing nearly 38%, from 5,381,333 to 7,420,927.   By comparison, the Philadelphia area is expected to grow by  just 6.5% and New York by 7.4%.  The population of the United States as a whole is projected to increase 16% by 2030.

Where will all these people go? Sustainable, transit-friendly, smart growth communities like the Pike District will even more important as we cope with these demographic changes.  Read more about these significant changes in Washingtonian Magazine and at the Urban Institute website

 

We’re not the only ones hoping for BRT

Rapid transit, or BRT, or whatever term is fashionable this week, will transform Rockville Pike and the Pike District. And we’re not the only ones who want the many benefits of rapid transit.  Queens wants it. Philadelphia is giving it a whirl. Seattle loves it. Sure, it’s difficult to picture the Pike as a grand, beautiful boulevard with sleek train-like buses zooming down the middle, but heck, most change is hard to imagine. Hopefully someday in the not-too-distant future, you’ll be able to hop on rapid transit to grab dinner at North Bethesda Market restaurant before watching the latest blockbuster at Ipic at Pike and Rose, all without the aggravation of navigating traffic, searching for a parking space, or worrying about who had to be that night’s designated driver.

Open spaces, lovely places

You’ve probably been in the parking lot of the Kennedy Shriver Aquatic Center (KSAC), or at least you’ve seen it as you drive past the swim center. But imagine that rather than acres of striped asphalt there is lush green grass, inviting park benches, a winding path through the forest.

Open spaces are an important promise of the White Flint Sector Plan, and Wall Park can be the Pike District’s first new prominent green space. Of course, before we’re walking our dogs, watching our kids jump rope, or playing a game of kickball after work, a few pieces of the puzzle need to come together. The Western Workaround and a parking garage shared with the to-be-built Gables Apartments must be constructed before we can enjoy a new Wall Park. Here’s hoping the puzzle pieces start falling into place this year.

Are your friends members of FoWF?

Members are the lifeblood of Friends of White Flint. Residents, businesses, homeowner associations, property owners build consensus and work together to fulfill the dream of the White Flint Sector Plan. If you’re reading this, chances are good you’re already a member,  (And if you’re not a member — what are you waiting for? Residents are free, and businesses can join with the payment of low annual dues.  Click here to join.)

Today, I’d like to challenge each of our members to ask one (or more!) person or business to join Friends of White Flint. Invite your neighbors and friends to become part of our essential organization. As an added incentive, every new member who joins before the end of January will be eligible to receive two tickets in the President’s Box at Strathmore for the performance of their choice*.  (And I bet if your friend wins, he or she will take you as his/her guest.)

That’s right — any new member who joins before February 1 will be entered in a drawing to receive two tickets in the President’s Box at Strathmore. 

So send your friends, neighbors, family members, and colleagues this link and tell them how they can be an important part of the exciting transformation of the Pike District

 

*Strathmore vouchers will be good for any performance through June 30th subject to availability. Booking early offers a better choice!  Some restrictions apply. For more details on the rules and restrictions of the vouchers, email us at info@whiteflint.org

North Bethesda Market II seeks approval for changes

North Bethesda Market II Plan

The JBG Companies will go to the Planning Board tomorrow to seek approval for changes to its plan to North Bethesda Market II, affectionately known as NoBe II.  County planners recommend the Planning Board approve the changes. The proposed amendments maintain the overall vision of a multiple-building, mixed-use, office, residential and retail development with a maximum of 740,528 square feet of mixed-use floor area that will be built in three phases.  North Bethesda Market II will include 268,000 square feet of non-residential floor area in five buildings, including approximately 67,260 square feet of existing retail and office space, a maximum of 492,000 square feet of residential floor area (up to 470 units including 59 MPDUs) in two buildings, and public amenities including structured parking facilities, a through-block pedestrian connection, tree canopy, wayfinding, public parking, tower step-backs, public open spaces and public art.